Polls show that Republicans do not seem to be excited about the current GOP candidates in the 2012 presidential election. Conservatives are wondering, “Where will the GOP find their Obama?” Some think voters should look towards leaders who have stayed out of politics for the most part, such as Herman Cain.
Some argue that an Obama-esque candidate who can attract voters by being a visionary or revolutionary is not what conservatives are looking for in their candidate. Peter Graves, the Executive Director of the Washington State Republican Party (WSRP), thinks that they are looking for a “reasonable, rational person that isn’t going to tear the country apart” or try and “instantly implement their entire campaign in two years.” It is important that the candidate is right on the issues.
I believe our “GOP Obama” will be a leader that has been interested in, directly involved with, and worked for the Republican Party since an early age. The GOP should undoubtedly focus on young conservatives who can be developed into future political leaders.
In the past, groups such as the Young Republicans have been powerful forces for getting youths politically involved. Particularly during the years of Ronald Reagan, they effectively engaged people; now, such groups are not nearly as influential even though they are starting to gain momentum again. As such, the Republican Party needs new avenues through which it can cultivate future political leaders because these organizations are still recovering.
According to Graves, young leaders are mainly trained through big election campaigns or in local state offices. These are the institutions and channels with which the Republican Party raises talented politicians to prominence.
Places that actually train youths and give them useful skills will produce not only the best leaders, but also a high number of them. Youths can gain this experience by having the most direct exposure to the Republican’s current political work. It is very hard to learn about politics when working in organizations that are only superficially involved, they do not provide their members with as much training or knowledge. It is obvious that youths who work directly for the Republican Party are the most likely to become leaders.
Specifically, campaigns “Bring in young Republicans, train them, equip them, and then they” have become experienced leaders once the campaign is over. Although “They work crazy hours” they are quickly given important responsibilities within the party. Similarly, state office headquarters are often filled with young people. Either they are working there just after college or interning there while still attending.
Looking at the WSRP office, you will see that young adults greatly outnumber everyone else. Graves is only 27, making him one of the youngest executive directors. Many others working there are only in their early 20s. Currently, they are five interns working there, and over 14 interns worked there this past year. Interns from the WSRP office, and similar offices, often go on to work for an election campaign or get a full time job working for that office; six of the WSRP’s former interns have even gone on to work in Washington, D.C. Such progression demonstrates that working for a campaign or directly for the party provides people with marketable skills, allowing them to take on important future positions within the party.
Whether it is through electoral campaigns, training interns at local offices, or with youth organizations, the Republican Party needs to continue efforts to politically engage young people in order to ensure that it has effective political leaders for the future.
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